The potential of TV white space spectrum to assist with improving broadband for rural communities is rapidly gaining wider recognition.
In the UK, as regulator Ofcom proceeds with a UK pilot of its proposed TV white spaces regulation, the BBC has been looking at what the opening up of this unused spectrum could mean for rural communities.
The TV white spaces are gaps left between frequencies used for terrestrial television broadcasting in the frequency range 470-790 MHz. Prior to the emergence of dynamic spectrum sharing technology, this spare capacity was considered too fragmented and sensitive for mass market applications. Its use has hitherto been confined to wireless microphones and other programme-making/events equipments - but event these only use the space capacity in certain times and places - not often in rural areas afflicted with poor broadband. Ofcom has committed to opening up this spectrum by early 2015.
A recent BBC news report covered developments on the Isle of Wight and in Scotland, to try to project what this technology could bring to help solved the urban-rural broadband gap in the years to come. The Isle of Wight segment covered both rural broadband and application to life boat communications - areas which have proved challenging for commercial deployments in the past.[Those in the UK can enjoy this BBC TV Newsnight piece - see 38:55 mins from the start]
Separately, BBC Radio 4 carried an interview on its Farming Today programme (28th August) (8 mins 15 secs from start) with white spaces pioneer, Malcolm Brew , from the Centre for White Space Communications at University of Strathclyde. Malcolm who is busy deploying white spaces technology to bring Internet connections to rural African communities, talked about life has been transformed life for the community on Bute through its white spaces pilot project - letting farmers register their livestock and pubs order beer online.
At the same time, Microsoft has announced that a major new white spaces pilot project has commenced in Namibia, in South Africa, covering the largest land area yet attempted with the technology (9,424 km²). There are 28 schools now enjoying Internet access under the scheme . The partners behind this included Microsoft, MyDigitalBridge and radio suppliers Adaptrum - with funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)-Namibia.